Brockham Burnfest 2010

Last night we partook of the annual burning man festival, you know, the one were we torch the effigy of a terrorist rather than the one involving lots of techno-hippies in a desert. As with last year we ventured out of the safe harbour of London down to the small country town of Brockham, home to one of the largest fires and firework displays in England.

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EU Facists Ban Un-Aryan Vegetables?

One of the great things about being back in the good ol’ U of K is that now our century old ways of doing things get regularly over-turned by the bunch of failed politicians who comprise the EU. In all fairness, some things they do are quite sensible, but other rules just seem to be rules for rules sake. For example, national supermarket Sainsbury’s is currently complaining to the EU about their ban on ‘ugly’ veg. This ban prevents any shop from selling veg that doesn’t meet certain standards – such as too small cauliflowers, forked carrots and the like. In this time of eco-policies and tight financial markets, being told to throw away up to 20% of their supplies seems a bit bonkers mental to me. What’s next? EU veg inspectors setting up checkpoints down the allotment to check every vegetable you take home to your family?

Right, rant over.. I’m back off to finish reading my Daily M*il.

Stephen Fry’s Love Letter to America

This Sunday, for those of us in jolly old Britland, Stephen Fry is embarking on the first episode of his love letter to America – which should be a jolly good watch and probably a lot better than the watered down distress visited on us by Little Britain USA (sorry, Matt and David – it’s not your best work). In a wonderfully long blog post Stephen explains where his fascination with America came from, the near chance that he could have grown up in America had his father but taken a different career decision. Having found this out at age ten the young Stephen, or ‘Steve’ when effecting an American accent, would imagine how his life could have been had this choice been made differently. Now the adult ‘Steve’ Fry gets his chance to share his effusive joy and wonder about the country that might have been his but isn’t thankfully for all us Brits who consider him one of our brightest treasures.

Brit Drinking

I was amused this morning to come across an article in the Daily Mail discussing how our British excess drinking habits appear to people from the US. The amusement was doubled by seeing a quote from my friend and ex-drinking partner in New York, Robert Kelsey – yes, he of book writing fame. The article can be summed up pretty succinctly in that we, as Brits, not only like our booze but actually need it to function as the witty, urbane folk that the rest of the world see us as. Alcohol in all its forms acts as a necessary launching pad to having a good time, impressing the opposite sex and finding a life partner – dictated perhaps by whether they have the same capacity for alcohol as ourselves, or maybe just enough propriety to not mention our drunken indisgressions once we sober up.

The whole world of British drunkenness has now been re-presented to me on my return from the US. As a Brit abroad it used to amaze me that our American friends would generally limit themselves to two beers a night, with rare exceptions. Now I have US friends who can, and do, imbibe to relative excess and handle it very well indeed, so I know that stereotype doesn’t hold true for everyone. The different does seem to be how drunk New Yorkers act when compared to drunk Londoners, and driving across town at 10pm last night after a great game of five-a-side football was yet another eye opener. The pavements of Old Street were overflowing with people barely able to stand upright, and seemingly intent on committing suicide with every passing car. Groups of skinny, rat faced boys, dressed in sharp shirts with slicked down mousey brown hair, seemed intent on catching our eyes as we drove past in obvious need of causing a fight with any excuse. “What you lookin at? I’ll fuckin’ have ya!”.

Drunken Brits at our best achieve Oscar Wilde levels of eloquence and witty banter, at least in our own minds and those of our drunken friends. At our worse, we’re lying on pavements in our own vomit, clothes in various states of disarray, blood on our faces from the last fight and looking forward, when we regain some small portion of our alcohol ravaged brains, to a chance to recount our heroic exploits to our friends, most likely over a pint. As an ex-ex-pat all of this is at times something to be embraced, and at other times a great source of embarrassment. Why can’t we just have a few, quiet drinks without feeling the need after the second to carry on? Why can’t we learn to get drunk while retaining some level of class? Perhaps this is the great leveller of class, with everyone from royalty down being a complete drunken idiot at some time. The only difference is that one drinks Krug by the carriage-load, the others drink cheap, strong Stella by the shitload. Social excess drinking is surely the glue of our entire empire.